Tips to Help Break the Soother or Thumb-Sucking Habit

Baby With Soother

Sucking is one of an infant’s natural reflexes! Many children begin sucking a thumb or finger at a very young age. Infants and young children may suck on thumbs, other fingers, pacifiers or other objects. It makes them feel secure, relaxed and it helps them learn about their world. 

According to the Canadian Dental Association, most children stop the soother or thumb habit on their own, between ages 2-4. It’s important to encourage a child to stop the soother or finger habits, well before the permanent teeth erupt. This is to reduce permanent changes that can occur to the mouth and face. 

Parents and caregivers can take note of the frequency of the habit and the force the child places on the thumb or soother. A higher frequency of habit, and a greater force will lead to larger, more permanent changes. 

Here are some TIPS for helping your child quit the habit:

  1. Start EARLY!
    After age 1, it’s helpful to try to limit the soother or thumb habit for sleepy times. This will reduce the frequency! It’s great to start early, as it can take a very long time to quit the habit.
  2. Remove Soother From Bed
    If the habit is used to fall asleep, remove the soother or thumb after the child is asleep. Again, this will reduce the frequency. The child also learns that the soother is not available all night, and won’t look for it when they wake up mid-sleep.
  3. Use PRAISE
    Positive words can go a long way! Praise your child when they are not using the thumb or soother.
  4. Work as a TEAM With Other Caregivers!
    Communicate your goals for the soother or thumb with your child’s other caregivers. Nannies, daycare teachers, and other caregivers, can all work together to help the child reduce the habit. Each month, there can be a new goal to reduce the frequency a little bit more.
  5. TALK to Your Child
    Some children are more successful at cutting the habit, when they understand the reasons why. Parents can explain that effects the soother or thumb can have on the teeth and mouth. If the child forgets,and starts the habit again, a gentle reminder about the reasons why it’s important to stop will help.
  6. REPLACE with another comforting object
    Some children are very comforted by a favourite blanket or ‘stuffy’. This can be used to help a child relax, feel secure, and fall asleep without using a soother or thumb.
  7. Cut the TIP of the soother
    A soother can be cut on the tip, to prevent suction. This is a benefit of the soother over the thumb. You can tell your child the soother is broken, and they can help to throw the soother away.
  8. Give the soother to the “soother fairy”
    Letting your child know that the soother will be going to a new baby, or the “soother fairy”, can be very effective. Giving your child notice that the soother will be given away, can prepare your child for the thought of no longer having it. Seeing a new baby with the soother can help your child understand that they don’t need it anymore.

If you have questions about whether the soother or thumb habit is affecting your child’s tooth alignment or mouth development, please call us – your North Vancouver dentist.